Edward Wadsworth was born in Cleckheaton, England, on October 19, 1889. In 1906 he moved to Monaco to study engineering, but spent the majority of his time studying drawing and woodcutting at the Knirr Art School. After returning to England in 1907, he enrolled in the Bradford School of Art and followed by the Slade School of Art (1909–12) in London. His first paintings demonstrate his growing interest in industrial subjects, however portraits and still-lives from the period suggest a Post-Impressionist influence.
In 1913 he met Wyndham Lewis, founder of the avant-garde movement called Vorticism. Wadsworth shared the ideals of the group, which were essentially the British version of Italian Futurism. Despite stark contrasts between the Vorticists and the Futurists, Vorticist paintings do in fact share certain Futurist hallmarks, such as the automobile and the industrial city. They also paid particular attention to the theoretical contributions of Vasily Kandinsky. New perspectives of the world, namely those brought about by airplanes, were used in Wadsworth’s paintings and relief woodcuts. While they are abstract in nature, they nevertheless maintain some reference to reality.
From 1915 to 1917 Wadsworth served in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. This experience can account for the marine themes that constitute the primary subject-matter of his work, which suggest a sort of somber naturalism. An element of surrealism, akin to that of Giorgio de Chirico, characterizes his still-lives, yet he was still interested in the developments of the 1930’s avant-garde. He was a member of the Unit One group, founded in 1933 by Paul Nash in order to promote British modern art. His work was shown at the 22nd Venice Biennale in 1940. He died in London on June 21, 1949.